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Worship of Baal of Peor


While Israel was staying at Shittim, the people began to have sexual relations with the women of Moab. 2These invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. 3Thus Israel yoked itself to the Baal of Peor, and the Lord’s anger was kindled against Israel. 4The Lord said to Moses, “Take all the chiefs of the people, and impale them in the sun before the Lord, in order that the fierce anger of the Lord may turn away from Israel.” 5And Moses said to the judges of Israel, “Each of you shall kill any of your people who have yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor.”

6 Just then one of the Israelites came and brought a Midianite woman into his family, in the sight of Moses and in the sight of the whole congregation of the Israelites, while they were weeping at the entrance of the tent of meeting. 7When Phinehas son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he got up and left the congregation. Taking a spear in his hand, 8he went after the Israelite man into the tent, and pierced the two of them, the Israelite and the woman, through the belly. So the plague was stopped among the people of Israel. 9Nevertheless those that died by the plague were twenty-four thousand.

10 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 11“Phinehas son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, has turned back my wrath from the Israelites by manifesting such zeal among them on my behalf that in my jealousy I did not consume the Israelites. 12Therefore say, ‘I hereby grant him my covenant of peace. 13It shall be for him and for his descendants after him a covenant of perpetual priesthood, because he was zealous for his God, and made atonement for the Israelites.’ ”

14 The name of the slain Israelite man, who was killed with the Midianite woman, was Zimri son of Salu, head of an ancestral house belonging to the Simeonites. 15The name of the Midianite woman who was killed was Cozbi daughter of Zur, who was the head of a clan, an ancestral house in Midian.

16 The Lord said to Moses, 17“Harass the Midianites, and defeat them; 18for they have harassed you by the trickery with which they deceived you in the affair of Peor, and in the affair of Cozbi, the daughter of a leader of Midian, their sister; she was killed on the day of the plague that resulted from Peor.”

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Nu 25:1-18. The Israelites' Whoredom and Idolatry with Moab.

1. Israel abode in Shittim—a verdant meadow, so called from a grove of acacia trees which lined the eastern side of the Jordan. (See Nu 33:49).

3. Israel joined himself unto Baal-peor—Baal was a general name for "lord," and Peor for a "mount" in Moab. The real name of the idol was Chemosh, and his rites of worship were celebrated by the grossest obscenity. In participating in this festival, then, the Israelites committed the double offense of idolatry and licentiousness.

4. The Lord said unto Moses, Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up—Israelite criminals, who were capitally punished, were first stoned or slain, and then gibbeted. The persons ordered here for execution were the principal delinquents in the Baal-peor outrage—the subordinate officers, rulers of tens or hundreds.

before the Lord—for vindicating the honor of the true God.

against the sun—that is, as a mark of public ignominy; but they were to be removed towards sunset (De 21:23).

5. judges of Israel—the seventy elders, who were commanded not only to superintend the execution within their respective jurisdictions, but to inflict the punishment with their own hands. (See on 1Sa 15:33).

6, 7. behold, one of the children of Israel … brought … a Midianitish woman—This flagitious act most probably occurred about the time when the order was given and before its execution.

who were weeping before the door of the tabernacle—Some of the rulers and well-disposed persons were deploring the dreadful wickedness of the people and supplicating the mercy of God to avert impending judgments.

8. the plague—some sudden and widespread mortality.

9. those that died in the plague were twenty and four thousand—Only twenty-three thousand perished (1Co 10:8) from pestilence. Moses includes those who died by the execution of the judges [Nu 25:5].

11-13. Phinehas … hath turned my wrath away—This assurance was a signal mark of honor that the stain of blood, instead of defiling, confirmed him in office and that his posterity should continue as long as the national existence of Israel.

14. Zimri, … a prince … among the Simeonites—The slaughter of a man of such high rank is mentioned as a proof of the undaunted zeal of Phinehas, for there might be numerous avengers of his blood.

17. Vex the Midianites, and smite them—They seem to have been the most guilty parties. (Compare Nu 22:4; 31:8).

18. they vex you with their wiles—Instead of open war, they plot insidious ways of accomplishing your ruin by idolatry and corruption.

their sister—their countrywoman.